Penn Charter sophomore Nicolette Napoleon (right) has her flight plan altered by 6’3” Lansdale Catholic center Shahila Miller. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

David Bass, the second-year head coach of the girls basketball team at Penn Charter, isn’t kidding when he says he’s got a very young team. The two returning starters for the Quakers this season, guards Hannah Fox and Ayannah Matthews, are still only freshmen.

Gone with last June’s graduation are 6’1” Dee Thomas-Palmer, a force in the middle for four years, point guard Marykate O’Brien, and swing player Danielle Sienko. Thomas-Palmer and O’Brien are playing basketball at Hofstra University and Williams College, respectively, and Sienko will be playing softball this spring at Kutztown University.

“With our youth, we’re going to have to focus on the little things,” stated Bass. “I don’t want to call it a rebuilding year – I call it a developing year. That being said, I think once we get some experience behind us we can be very effective in a lot of games.”

One of this year’s seniors, power forward Katie O’Malley out of Norwood Fontbonne Academy, saw a lot of playing time coming off the bench last season. Fellow upperclassman Allison Rogers is a guard, and PC will get additional experience and leadership in the backcourt thanks to the return of former hoopster Kelly Kubach.

Kubach, who recently signed with the University of Michigan to play lacrosse, has come back to basketball after focusing on indoor lacrosse and conditioning during her junior year. The fourth senior in the program, guard Nicole Weitz, is seeing more time with the junior varsity early this season.

Junior guard Kristina Kubach, Kelly’s sister, has been a constant for the Quakers, and classmate Carmella Dow is also back for PC. Aside from the talented Matthews and Fox, the other three freshmen and sophomores are all new students at the school. Nicolette Napoleon, a strong forward, is the tenth-grade transfer, and the incoming freshmen are Eileen Hennessey and Taylor Zahairagunn. Zahairagunn is a graduate of Wyncote’s Ancillae Assumpta Academy.

Last Tuesday, the Quakers hosted Lansdale Catholic High School for the first scrimmage of the season, and they had their hands full playing in the paint against LC’s 6’3” sophomore, Shahila Miller. The two teams played a regular four quarters, took a break for some JV activity, then engaged in two more eight-minute periods.

A pair of three-pointers by Fox helped PC prevail in the first round, 10-7. After that, the Crusaders ramped up their guard play, and with the exception of an 8-8 draw in the fourth segment, LC outscored the Quakers in each of the following periods. The scoreboard was wiped clean at the end of each frame, but the cumulative total of 46-33 favored the visitors.

“We’ve got to keep our heads and be patient with our progress, but we also want to make sure that there is progress,” commented Bass. “We want to make sure we grow from each time we practice or play together. We’re experimenting with a couple of different line-ups. By the time the Inter-Ac rolls around, we should be ready to go, although it will be a tough league, as it always is.”

Last winter Penn Charter posted a 7-5 record in the league, tying for fourth place with Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.

Even outside of the required Girls Inter-Ac agenda, Bass pointed out, “I’m never going to shy away from having a strong schedule.”

The Quakers will take on defending state independent schools champ Shipley in the Make-A-Wish tournament at Germantown Academy and will travel to Wildwood, NJ for the long-running Boardwalk Classic at the end of the month. Charter will also appear at a number of multi-team showcase events later on in the season.